Apply for a Social Security Number
Your Social Security Number is your life-long link to Social Security and key to receiving a wide range of government services. A Social Security Number allows you to work and pay taxes in the United States and provides access this nation's economic safety net programs.
The process for citizens to receive a social security number for the first time is straight forward. Most people receive their social security number at birth but you can apply at any age. Anyone over 12 years old must be interviewed in person and present original documents proving citizenship and identity. U.S. Passport, birth certificate, U.S. military ID or government issued ID card are acceptable. Sometimes additional identification such as employee ID card, school ID, or health insurance card may be required. If you were not born a U.S. citizen then documentation of naturalization is required.
Children under 5 years old does not have to be present to be issued a SSN—only proof of age, proof of citizenship, and identification of the person applying on the child's behalf are required. Birth certificate, adoption documentation or a passport is acceptable proof of a child's age and citizenship. Many hospitals are able to streamline the process by accepting SSN application for newborns.
Non-citizens can receive a social security number under certain conditions. If your immigration status allows you to work in the United States then you may obtain a Social Security Number by providing at least two different documents that prove your identity, Work-authorized immigration status, and age to a Social Security Administration office. Find the closest SSA office at https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp. You can also apply for a SSN along with your visa application before you arrive in the United States.
If you are not authorized to work in the U.S. you can still receive a Social Security Number if you need one in order to obtain government services to which you are entitled. If a non-citizen needs a SSN solely to be claimed on tax documentation the person will be issued an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of an SSN. ITINs are 9-digits numbers and look like SSNs but do not allow an individual to work in the U.S.
If you already have a Social Security Number there are several reasons why you might want to change to a different number. In order to qualify to receive a different SSN you must meet one of the following conditions:
- You have been a victim of Identity Theft
- You have been a victim of Domestic Abuse or other form of harassment
- You have a religious opposition to a particular part of your SSN. For instance, if your SSN contains '666' or '13'.
- You and a family member are issued concurrent numbers. This can cause trouble proving one's identity and can make it possible to guess someone's SSN.
- You have been issued the same SSN as someone else. It is rare but it happens.
Reasons not on this list are assessed individually on a case-by-case basis and may be denied.
If you qualify, you will need 3 things in order to complete the request for a new SSN:
- Complete the Social Security Administration's SS-5 form
- At least two different documents proving identity, age and citizenship or immigration status. Documents must be originals.
- Evidence supporting the reason you claim to need a Social Security Number change
Then take all your application and supporting documents to your nearest SSA office or card center to submit your request. In some cases, you will be issued a new Social Security Number that day and in others you will be issued a new SSN at a later date.
Draw backs to changing your SSN
Changing your Social Security Numbers may seem more beneficial than it really is. Unless you were accidentally issued the same SSN as someone else, even if you change your SSN it will still be linked with your old number in the Social Security Administration's database. This prevents people from using a new Social Security Number to avoid bankruptcy proceedings or otherwise prevent themselves from being linked to their past financial history.
When an SSN is changed an individual must stop using their original number. Banks and other financial institutions will be notified that the original number is invalid but will have no knowledge of your new number. This can leave loans, bank accounts, and other financial obligations in limbo. You will be able to retain these assets; however an SSN change may cause some delay in accessing your accounts.
SSN-Check.org is a public resource designed to provide information about Social Security and Social Security Numbers. SSN-Check is not affiliated with the Social Security Administration or any government agency.